Charles Leclerc says this weekend’s Formula 1 opener in Australia will be a “special race” for him, as he prepares to make his Scuderia Ferrari debut.
Following a highly impressive rookie season with Alfa Romeo Sauber in 2018, Ferrari junior Leclerc was chosen as Kimi Räikkönen‘s successor alongside Sebastian Vettel for ’19.
Leclerc fondly recalled his F1 debut at the Albert Park Circuit 12 months ago, adding that this year’s edition will be even more of an occasion.
“Obviously this will be a very special race for me, being my debut with Ferrari and that will make this Australian GP unique,” said Leclerc.
“I’ve already got good memories of Melbourne, because Albert Park was where I made my F1 debut last year.
“It’s nice coming to Melbourne, as the city and the people are special.
“You can feel Australia has a different culture and the atmosphere is very enjoyable.”
The 20-year-old Monégasque driver impressed during the two weeks of official winter testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last month in the new-for-2019 SF90, setting the third fastest time overall behind pacesetter Vettel and Mercedes AMG-Motorsport‘s Lewis Hamilton.
Reflecting on testing, Leclerc said that although the winter was a pleasing one for Ferrari, its performance in Barcelona means little if the teams starts 2019 slowly.
Ferrari is aiming to break Mercedes’ dominance of both F1 championships in the V6 turbo hybrid era, after its 2017 and ’18 challenges faded in the second half of the season.
“I am pleased with the way testing went and I can’t wait to get out on track, as it’s on the race weekend that we have to reap the rewards for all the winter work, by getting a good result,” Leclerc added.
“The track is unusual, because it’s a street circuit, but with the characteristics of a permanent track, with wide run-off areas and reasonably high speeds.”